Earthquake highlights need for rigorous protection of Bagan temples

BAGAN’s famed pagodas appear to be the greatest casualty in the tourism sector after a powerful magnitude 6.8 earthquake struck central Myanmar on Wednesday.

The US Geological Survey said the quake hit near Chauk, a town 120km from Bagan. At least three people were killed and some 185 brick pagodas were damaged, the state newspaper reported.

Hotels in the destination are generally unscathed and tours to Bagan are continuing to operate as usual, although the interiors of several temples are off limits for the time being, according to feedback from DMCs and tour operators in Myanmar.

Natalie Scott, sales and marketing manager at Myanmar Polestar, told TTG Asia e-Daily: “We are currently receiving updates on the extent of damage caused to temples in Bagan and to the surrounding area.

“There are over 3,000 temples and pagodas in Bagan and of these 171 have been affected. Most of the damage (was confined to) a small area of the stupas or parts of the buildings, while the main structures remain intact.

Some temples in Mrauk U, another major tourist destination in Rakhine state, were also destroyed in the quake, said Lynn Zaw Wai Mang, general manager and executive director, Unique Asia Travels & Tours.

“Most of the affected areas are heritage sites, so people are saddened,” he said.

Seeing a “silver lining” amid the unfortunate event is Khiri Travel Myanmar general manager Edwin Briels.

“(The Bagan temples) were built over 800 years ago and there has been little funding since then to maintain the structures,” he said. “Yesterday’s earthquake has shown that all ancient temples are still standing strong even after a big earthquake.

“The majority of the bricks that fell off were the new bricks added during the renovations over the last decades,” Briels added, reflecting trade sentiments that proper repair and restoration of Bagan’s ancient architecture is critical to its sustainable development.

Myanmar is currently seeking UNESCO World Heritage Status for Bagan, after its first bid for recognition in 1996 was rejected due to poor management plans and legal frameworks.


Source: TTG Asia

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